Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Signs of Spice Abuse

Keeping up with the latest trends in drug abuse among teens can be challenging for parents. One of the newest drugs available to teenagers is “spice,” the street name for a synthetic plant-based product that produces psychoactive effects in users. Spice consists of a blend of dried herbs treated with a mixture of chemicals, including cannabinoid compounds that imitate the effects of marijuana.

Because the production of spice is unregulated, the chemical contents of each batch of the drug can vary. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has made it illegal to use, sell or buy the active chemical ingredients in synthetic marijuana; however, manufacturers have evaded these regulations by modifying the chemical formulas of their products. This makes it even harder for parent to pinpoint the side effects of spice or to detect spice abuse in their adolescent children.

Immediate Effects of Abuse

Also known as “K2,” “fake weed,” “incense” and “skunk,” spice is readily available to teens through online suppliers and at some head shops. Until 2012, the product was legal in the US and could be purchased from gas stations, convenience stores, liquor stores and other public sources. Spice is usually smoked like marijuana, but it can also be brewed and consumed in the form of a tea.

A teenager who’s under the influence of spice will show signs that are typical of psychoactive drug abuse, such as:

  • An extremely relaxed, mellow mood
  • Giddiness or euphoria
  • Distorted sensory perceptions
  • Loss of psychomotor coordination
  • Unusual mood changes
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Paranoia

Spice can affect teens in a wide range of ways. Some users laugh inappropriately and act silly while others become extremely fearful and suffer panic attacks. According to the journal Pediatrics, physical side effects of intoxication can include sweating, restlessness, abnormal muscle movements and unresponsiveness. Other reactions may include a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and even heart attack.

Warning Signs of Long-Term Use

Spice is a relatively new drug, and its long-term side effects are still unknown. However, because spice affects the same brain cells that respond to the active chemicals in marijuana, signs of long-term abuse may resemble chronic marijuana use:

  • Delays in learning
  • Memory loss
  • Poor motor coordination
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Teens who are abusing spice may have unusual changes in their behavior, appearance and interests. Instead of spending time with friends, playing sports or participating in school activities, they may isolate themselves, spend a lot of time online or hang out with a new circle of peers. You may notice a decline in their personal appearance or grooming. Other signs of spice abuse include unusual packets, smoking paraphernalia, or incense-like odors on their clothing or belongings.

Drug Rehab for Spice Abuse

Medical research hasn’t confirmed that spice is addictive. However, this drug may produce withdrawal symptoms that are similar to the side effects of marijuana withdrawal, such as cravings for the drug, sleep disturbances, anxiety, agitation, depression and moodiness. Drug rehab programs for teenagers can help adolescents withdraw safely from spice while getting the support they need to make a full physical and emotional recovery.

Muir Wood offers gender-specific, individually tailored treatment programs for troubled boys. We’re here to answer your questions and to extend help whenever you’re ready. Call us anytime to find out more about our state-of-the-art residential treatment facility in Sonoma County, California.

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